The World Cup teams: New Zealand
The New Zealand cricket side has never reached the lofty heights of their Rugby Union counterparts, but they have always been a force to be reckoned with. They are the only side in the world to have beaten Australia in more than one ODI game last year, having beaten them 3-1 in the triangular VB Series Down Under, which South Africa eventually won.
The Kiwis lack a genuine class player who consistently plays well in international games, but they have some of the more exciting youngsters around, and a host of genuine, experienced allrounders.
Young fast bowler Shane Bond burst onto the international scene last year, tearing both South African and Australian batsmen apart in the VB Series, and is probably the most exciting prospect to emerge in world cricket in 2002.
He bowls with genuine pace and accuracy, and will be well suited to South African pitches.
Like South Africa New Zealands’ strength has always come from their depth in allrounders, but this has also proved to be their weakness. It’s all very well stacking your side up with allrounders, but it means both your batting and your bowling is slightly watered down. Where South Africa differ from New Zealand is that the South Africans have allrounders that could easily make a career out of either discipline, while the New Zealanders’ allrounders would be hard-pressed to say the same.
The lack of any real class batsman is their biggest downfall, but perhaps their greatest strength is their bowling and fielding. The bowling isn’t especially quick (Bond excluded), but it is ideally suited to ODI’s - there is lack of pace, which means the ball doesn’t come onto the bat as well as batsmen would like, and with added swing and wily mixing of pace you’re never quite comfortable against them. That being said - if a class batsman gets his eye in against them they travel a long way, as the pace is never enough to trouble the top players.
They have seriously top players in Chris Cairns (who has usually been responsible whenever SA have lost to New Zealand), Nathan Astle (the opening bat who seems to have been around since the inception of cricket), Chris Harris (brilliant point fielder and wily off-spinner) and Lou Vincent (the young hired gun at the top of the order), and their fielding is second to none.
New Zealand are expected to get a semi-final result, but I don’t think they will. They really impressed last year in ODI cricket - with their victories against Australia and their most recent result, a 5-0 drubbing of India at home - but they don’t travel well, and they’ve already forfeited a guaranteed win by refusing to play Kenya in Nairobi. The ICC may still allow them to play the game in South Africa, but if they don’t then the Kiwis are going to struggle.
The Kiwis play best on their slower pitches at home, and the pace of their bowling will be negated by harder, faster pitches in South Africa (unless, of course, the SA groundsmen have done the usual thing and prepared wickets that suit everyone but South Africa…)
Interestingly - the Black Caps have never won an ODI in South Africa. They’ve played ten games here (eight against SA and two against Sri Lanka), and have lost eight and had two end in no result. So they’ll be pretty keen to change all that.
They play n the same pool as South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, and since they’re forfeiting a game (against Kenya) they will have to beat two of these three, which is no small task. You would fancy South Africa to beat them, history considered, and their record against West Indies is pretty similar to their record against South Africa, although in the last couple of years they have it over the Windies 6-3. They stand a good chance of beating Sri Lanka - the two are practically level-pegging in the ODI stakes, although Sri Lanka have fared better in the last two years, leading 4-1.
All things considered the Kiwis are going to struggle. It will require a superhuman effort to get through to the Super Six, but should they get there they could breeze into the semis. Their likely opponents in the Super Six will be Australia, India, and either England or Pakistan, and their recent form against these sides has been outstanding.
And if they make it into the semis, then pay a visit to your local bookie, as they will be in with a good outside chance of getting to the final, where anything can happen. Their confidence will be high if they get this far, as they will have climbed a difficult slope to get there, and they will be tricky customers for anyone facing them under lights.
Meet The Team:
Stephen Fleming (Captain)
They Play Against:
Monday 10/02: Sri Lanka (Bloemfontein, day)
Thursday 13/02: West Indies (Port Elizabeth, day)
Sunday 16/02: South Africa (Johannesburg, day)
Friday 21/02: Kenya (Nairobi, day) - game forfeited
Wednesday 26/02: Bangladesh (Kimberley, day)
Monday 03/03: Canada (Benoni, day)
Bookies (Bet365): 13/1
12th Man’s New Zealand Tip
Despite the big hype, and the favourable rating given to New Zealand, I think they’re going to struggle. The forfeiting of their game against Kenya is going to make the going tough, as you can consider it a loss against a side they would have been guaranteed to have beaten. That being said - if they play well they can still come away with a pretty decent World Cup, and no-one’s stopping anyone from putting a small fortune on them for outside winners.
Question is: can you see Stephen Fleming lifting the cup aloft at the Wanderers, having put away South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and friends in a series of pulsating games? I can’t, which means my cash is still safe.
If it’s action you’re after then tune in to their first game against Sri Lanka - both will be looking to come at the other hard, but New Zealand will have the extra incentive. The dude who collects the golf balls from the Bloem Waterfront is going to be busy with more than golf balls if Jayasuriya and Cairns get busy.
You’ll also want to watch how they fare against South Africa on a flat Jozi wicket - expect Fun In The Sun from Herschelle.
More cricket in our Cricket World Cup special report.